Otis Redding – “Try a Little Tenderness” (Singles Going Steady Classic)

Otis Redding's raw, feverishly passionate soul vocals have become a touchstone for every singer to emerge in his wake.

Emmanuel Elone: Some people might know this song as the original sample to Kanye and Jay Z’s 2010 single “Otis”. However, long before those two were the musical superstars that they are today, Otis Redding was dominating the charts in the mid to late ’60s as the King of R&B with hits like “Try a Little Tenderness”. Everything about this song is fantastic, from it’s pulsing rhythms to Redding’s trademark croons. No matter whether it’s the chorus, verse or bridge, Otis Redding gave it his all, pushing his vocal chords to etch out one more passionate note, maintain one grand vibrato, or belt out some short staccato phrases for effect. There are many reasons as to why Otis Redding picked up the mantle left by Sam Cooke’s untimely passing, and “Try a Little Tenderness” is one of those reasons. [10/10]

Pryor Stroud: Al Green has been called the “last of the great Southern soul singers”, an epithet that not only implies a lineage leading to Green, but a mythology around him — which is to say, the canonical collective known as “the Great Southern Soul Singers” represents an assemblage of towering pop-movement figureheads that have become, like constellations or folklore archetypes, indelible facets of the American cultural consciousness. They are the giants that, even if you don’t know them by name, exist in the sonic ether around almost everything we listen to: Bobby “Blue” Bland, Percy Sledge, and, perhaps most importantly, Otis Redding, whose raw, feverishly passionate, I-must-sing-this-song-to-go-on-living soul vocals have become a touchstone for every singer to emerge in his wake. In 1964, Otis released his debut LP Pain in My Heart, which includes his anguish-ridden retelling of Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me”, a cover that, in its viscerally affecting vocal intensity and sense of high-stakes romantic drama, helps to illuminate the brilliance of Redding’s seminal “Try a Little Tenderness”. Each chorus beings with a repetition of searingly tortuous heartache: “So darlin’, darlin’, stand by me,” Redding sings, and it’s this second “Darlin'”, filled with enough pain and desperation for an entire lifetime, that is channeled into and extrapolated upon in the climax of “Try a Little Tenderness”. As the tempo picks up and this climax approaches, Redding wails “squeeze her, don’t tease her, never leave her”, and he wails with the same passion he had for this “Darlin'” in “Stand By Me”, but now it’s the man who must do the standing, who must come to this “Darlin'” in a time of desperate need. [10/10]

Chris Ingalls: While not my favorite Otis single, “Try a Little Tenderness” is still a bulletproof love ballad from soul music’s golden age. What sets this song apart from Redding’s brief but impressive catalog is the fact that it starts with barely more than a whisper and slowly builds up over the course of a few minutes; by the end of the song he’s in full soul shout mode while the band keeps up expertly. A masterpiece from a voice cut short way too soon. [10/10]

Chad Miller: I’ve heard some amazing covers of this song, and it’s easy to see why tons of artists have been so inspired by Redding as to attempt the track themselves. Redding puts so much emotion into his vocals, and he sounds amazing here. The brass explosion at the end is wonderful too, providing a wonderful contrast with the softer opening. [10/10]

SCORE: 10.00